Anoxic environments worldwide host members of various lineages of anaerobic protists, some of the most interesting examples being metamonads, archamoebae, and armophorid ciliates. It is well known that in anaerobic protists the mitochondria have transformed into so-called mitochondrion-related organelles (MROs). It has been shown that a wide variety of MRO forms exists besides the best known hydrogenosomes and mitosomes, comprising a functional continuum from a nearly complete electron transport chain to organelles unable to produce ATP. We have recently established in culture a small anaerobic flagellate which cannot be readily classified to a particular recognized group of protists. Although morphologically inconspicuous, phylogenetic analyses based on three genes completely failed to resolve its phylogenetic position indicating that the new organism may represent a novel eukaryotic lineage. Since its anaerobic lifestyle is likely to have arisen independently from other groups of anaerobic protists, we hypothesize that its MROs have developed unique adaptations for anaerobiosis via lateral gene transfer. The aim of the project is: (1) to sequence the transcriptome and genome of this organism and perform in silico characterization of its mitochondrion, (2) to perform a phylogenomic analysis in order to assess its phylogenetic position, and (3) to study its ultrastructure with emphasis on the flagellar apparatus. Candidates with prior experience in protistology, methods of molecular biology, bioinformatics, and electron microscopy will be preferred. The project will be co-supervised by Dr. Tomáš Pánek (Department of Zoology) and will be funded by money available for the research team.

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